Interviews > Sir Christopher Lee Eulogy
Sir Christopher Lee Eulogy
By Athena Schaffer

The world is now a much darker place indeed without the shining light that was Sir Christopher Lee! Lee was indeed a legend who illuminated the worlds of Cinema, Theatre, and Music! Sadly, he left this world on June 7 at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London, UK of heart failure, where he was being treated for respiratory problems at the age of 93 (although he was forever young of heart, and a force to be reckoned with until his final days).

His spirit will always be with us in the forms of the works of art he left behind. Fans identify him most recently with his roles as Count Dooku in the Star Wars universe, and the wizard Saruman in the Tolkein-inspired Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. Although he wanted to distance himself from his illustrious Hammer Film years so he would not be typecast, he was well loved for those early roles (and identified as one of the “sexiest Draculas in film”), he has done a little of everything, including 5 films with Johnny Depp (including an appearance in the 2012 Dark Shadows flick) to the James Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga in 1974’s “Man With The Golden Gun”.

Although his films “To The Devil A Daughter” and “The Wicker Man” are among some of my favorite all-time movies, what I personally love him best for is as a Heavy Metal Musician, a career side-path he pursued into his Nineties! You Go, Sir Lee!!! His music is some of the best I’ve ever heard in my favorite genre, and he made it to #18 on the Billboard Charts in 2013 – the oldest performer ever to have charted there in any genre (the previous record had been held by Tony Bennett) with the song “Jingle Hell”.

An interesting trivia note is that he shared a birthday (although different birth years) with Vincent Price – May 27 – and his long-time friend (and many-times co-star including in Star Wars) Peter Cushing’s birthday was the day before. Also, he was knighted in the UK on October 30 (Devil’s Night – the night before All Hallow’s eve) in 2009.

His foray into the world of Heavy Metal began with guest appearances on Italian band Rhapsody of Fire’s albums. He then did narrations for Manowar before embarking on his own solo Metal career where he has worked with such greats as London-based band Inner Terrestrials to guitar impresario Hedras Ramos.

He recorded the Metal version of “The Toreador Song” in 2006 with the Inner Terrestrials. This was followed by “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death”, “Charlemagne: By The Sword and the Cross”, and “Metal Knight”. He also released “Heavy Metal Christmas” and “Heavy Metal Christmas Too” along with the single “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing”.

The Crowgrrl was privileged to have interviewed Sir Christopher Lee early into his Heavy Metal years in January, 2007 with the release of his European album, “Revelation”. Here’s a recap of that interview.

“Revelation” is only out in the U.K.? Is it going to be released in the rest of the world as well?

It is available in many countries, for instance Japan, Spain, Germany, France, US, etc. There are songs in Italian, Spanish, French and English, so these will appeal to people in those countries as well.

How did you choose the songs on the album?

"Name Your Poison" comes from a film I made over 20 years ago and it is such a brilliantly written song that we have included it. It was written and composed by Richard O’Brien and Richard Hartley of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. I had actually sung and narrated in the studio recording version of the Rocky Horror Show. ‘O Sole Mio/It’s Now or Never’ and ‘Wanderin’ Star’ were recorded 5-6 years ago with Gary Curtis, who is a Pop singer. Everything else was chosen and recorded in the last few months.

The songs are personal favorites of mine and while most of them are very well known, I’ve tried to do something different with each one. For instance, ‘The Toreador March’ is done in two completely different styles - Flamenco and Heavy Metal, which were a lot of fun to record, particularly the music videos. I am not trying to imitate any known singers, I am simply singing the songs my own way and giving them a very personal interpretation. ‘Carmencita/ Quiero y no Quiero Querer’ was written especially for me and is a jazzy flamenco ballad. This song was written and composed by leading Flamenco exponent Juan Ramirez and I sing it as a duet with the lovely Lola Rueda.

Is this something that you worked on over time, or a project that you completely focused on for a shorter period?

It is a project that I worked on for a relatively short period of time. It took a few months to record, but I was also working on other projects at the same time, so I did not do so continuously.

I know you worked with Inner Terrestrials on “The Toreador March” – do you work with different musicians on each song? How did you choose the musicians you worked with?

I do work with different musicians in each song, depending on the style of music that was required and what work best with my voice. I am a Bass/Baritone, heavy metal works very well with the power and depth of my voice, or so I have been told. Some are studio musicians, others are groups like The Inner Terrestrials, a flamenco dance company and of course The English Chamber Choir.

What’s your personal favorite song on “Revelation”?

"The Toreador March", because it allowed me to experience two totally different styles of music. When the DVD is released in April, you will be able to see me participating with flamenco dancers during the parts called ‘Bulerias’, so it is not just about singing but being able to fit in with the musicians and dancers, while telling the story of the bullfighter. It is a very hard song to sing because it has so many short notes and some are very high for my voice. I also love "The Man of la Mancha" songs but of course, these I found easy because Don Quixote was a man of around my same age, so I can identify with the character.

I saw the clip on your website for “The Toreador March”. Where was that filmed? Will you release the song as, say, an MTV or YouTube video as well?

You saw a very short clip, the videos are over 5 minutes long. The Flamenco version was filmed in some very famous bullrings around Spain and the Metal version was filmed on a very atmospheric live stage. YouTube, yes. I don’t know if MTV plays the kind of music that I recorded in this album.

Your busy schedule probably won’t allow for a full scale tour, I’m sure. But are you doing any full-length concerts of your music?

I have done so when filming some of the videos, because as you rightly point out, I don’t have time to do a tour . Maybe, if I have the time, and I am asked, I will do a concert, but it will be not be a full length one because I am, after all, 84 years old. My mind is still young but my body is starting to feel it.

Are you planning on filming the performance(s) for maybe a full length DVD?

The DVD is being released in April, so yes you will be able to see our performances.

You’ve also made appearances on Rhapsody of Fire’s “Symphony of Enchanted Lands: Part II” and “Triumph or Agony”? How did that come about?

Yes, I narrate on both albums but I also recorded one song, "The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream", which I sung with Fabio Lione. The song was recorded in English, French, German and Italian, and it was a huge success. The single charted in several countries.

Rhapsody are fans of my work and they had asked me if I would do it. I like their music , they are very nice people, so why not? That was my first venture into Heavy Metal and I hope to do so more.

Rhapsody of Fire’s “Dark Secret Saga” is still continuing – are you going to appear on future albums in the saga as well?

I would like to but I haven’t yet been asked. Who knows?

You are a classically trained singer?

Not really. I have sung a lot over the years, but without any formal training. I guess you could also say that I am a classically trained actor, yet my only useful training has come from many years of experience.

Can you tell us about your previous cd from 2005, “My Lucky Life”?

This was not an album of mine. There is a younger singer also called “Christopher Lee”.

You also did a CD in 2003: “Lord Of The Rings: At Dawn In Rivendell”?

Yes, I narrated and I also sang the song of "Treebeard".

Have you sung for any of your films?

Yes, in many. "The Wicker Man", "The Return of Captain Invincible", "Safari 3000", "El Umbracle", "The Rainbow Thief" and others.

Back to “Rings”, you actually met Tolkien?!

I was introduced to him at the ‘Eagle and Child’ Pub in Oxford also known as ‘The Bird and Baby’. Tolkien used to meet there with group of people called the Inklings.

You still read Tolkien every year? Is that just the “Hobbit” and “Rings” trilogy, or some of his other works like “Silmarillion”, “Book of Lost Tales” and other works as well?

Yes, I read many of his works every year.

“Cowboys For Christ” is in pre-production – can you tell us anything about this upcoming film yet?

We are hoping to make it in the spring, but until the movie is out, I am not allowed to give the story away. What I can say, is that it is a very good script and it’s not a remake of The Wicker Man, but a totally different movie.

What did you think of the 2006 remake of “The Wicker Man” compared to your original?

I haven’t seen it, so I cannot make any comments.

Can you tell us anything about “Edgar Allan Poe - 11 Poe Tales Hosted By Christopher Lee” DVD that was released in 2006?

I did the narrations on the screen and appeared in the last episode called ‘The Masque of the Red Death’.

What about the DVD “Century of Science Fiction - Hosted by Christopher Lee”, also released in 2006?

I remember narrating for it, but I never got to watch it.

You have some videogame projects in the works as well?

Yes, I believe many of them are out already and some are still in production. It is another area of work which I enjoy doing.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you want to tell our readers?

I am starting a film shortly, which will be, I believe, an outstanding motion picture. Hopefully I will record more songs in the future and keep learning about other styles of music. Works keeps my brain active, so as long as I am fit and enjoy what I am doing, I will have many more surprises in store.